I love a good mystery, I love odd animals and I love tuna salad sandwiches so I’ve been watching this story about a strange but tiny beast found in a can of tuna to see how it turns out. It looks like it’s finally been identified. If you’re eating, you may want to stop or come back later. Done? OK, the little bug-eyed creature in the can is a tongue-eating louse. A what?

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That's right - a tongue-eating louse

Zoe Butler of Nottingham, England, saw the little pair of black eyes staring up at her a couple of weeks ago when she opened a can of Princes tuna chunks. Here’s how she described it:

I opened the top of the lid and saw a purply thing, a gut sack or intestine – then I turned it round and pushed it with a fork and saw it looking back at me. It's got like a spiny tail along the bottom – it's quite grim. I dropped the fork, jumped back, screamed a bit and shouted for my nan to come and have a look.

Zoe sent the photo and story to Princes and to her local newspaper. It hit the Internet and speculation on what it was ranged from a tadpole to the head of a turtle to a mutant tuna to an alien. Finally, Stuart Hine, Identification and Advisory Service manager from the Natural History Museum in London, chimed in with an identification (it's his job):

From what I can see I would support the head of a tongue-eating louse, Cymothoa exigua, or similar.

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Where there's room, there's two tongue-eating louses

The tongue-eating louse is a new one on me. Cymothoa exigua is a tiny parasitic crustacean that enters a fish through the gills and eventually attaches itself to the base of its tongue. From there it eats the tongue, drinks its blood and eventually (you did stop eating, didn’t you?) replaces the tongue completely and lives in the fish’s mouth for the rest of its life until it meets the big cannery in the sky.

That explanation is too gross for the people at Princes, who told Zoe the critter is the head of a tiny immature crab. It still shouldn’t show up in a can of tuna but it at least sounds better than a tongue-eating louse.

Excuse me while I put a few scenes for a tongue-eating louse to my next horror movie script.

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Jabba the Louse?

Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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